UPDATE 1-Egypt pays $1.5 bln to foreign energy companies - oil ministry

Thu Oct 2, 2014 5:30am EDT
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CAIRO Oct 2 (Reuters) - Egypt has paid $1.5 billion of its debt to foreign energy companies, the oil ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

The country's remaining debt to foreign energy firms stands at $4.9 bln after this latest payment, which was financed by a loan from Egyptian banks, according to the statement.

"The government aims to reduce the debt owed to partners in the oil sector to an appropriate level to motivate them to intensify research and exploration," said Oil Minister Sherif Ismail.

Egypt has delayed payments to oil and gas firms after a popular uprising ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and brought on almost three years of instability. Some of the debts were incurred before the revolt.

Egypt's last payment to foreign energy companies was $1.5 billion made at the end of last December to oil majors including BP and BG Group. At the time, BG Group was owed the most. It is unclear which companies will benefit from today's payment.

The oil ministry's figures indicate that Egypt's debt was at $6.4 billion immediately before this payment, up from the $5.9 billion reported at the end of April. That indicates Egypt has accumulated $500 million in fresh debt over the past five months.

Today's $1.5 billion payment was financed through loans from the National Bank of Egypt, the oil ministry said. (Reporting By Shadi Bushra and Ehab Farouk; Editing by Larry King)